Thumbnail image: Kelly Hsaio

[Lisa Kopp] Welcome, everyone to today’s webinar from the Lab of Ornithology. I’m so excited to be able to be talking with Jane Kim today. She and I have had the chance to work together for a while, and so I’m so excited to have you all hear from her. But before we get started with today’s webinar, which is hosted by Cornell University staff which as I said is based in Ithaca, New York, I want to read a statement acknowledging the indigenous people original to this area where the University is located.

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogohónǫ’, the Cayuga Nation. The Gayogohónǫ’ are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogohónǫ’ dispossession and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogohónǫ’ people, past and present, to these lands and waters.

So for those of you who aren’t familiar, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, part of Cornell University, is home to a community of researchers and supporters from around the world. Many of you, I assume are members so thank you for that. We appreciate birds and the integral roles that they play in our ecosystems, and our mission is to advance leading edge research, education, and citizen science that help solve pressing conservation challenges. So this work, including today’s webinar is funded primarily by people like you who choose to become a member. If you enjoy today’s webinar. I hope you’ll consider becoming a member too by visiting

And just a special announcement that today’s event is the second of a series of events that we’re hosting over the next two weeks celebrating migration. So we have a number of live webinars coming up over the next few days, and a website full of really great resources and information that we will make sure to put that in the chat for you. So you can check that out later.

So my name is Lisa Kopp and I am from the Visitor Center team, and I’ll be facilitating today’s conversation. And as I said with us is Jane Kim. Welcome, Jane.

[Jane Kim] Hello! Hi, thank you. It’s really exciting to be here.

[Lisa Kopp] Yes. I’m really happy to get going, and I just have a couple more quick announcements and then we’ll get to the good stuff, which is Jane drawing. So these are all tech-related questions. Closed captioning is available. So if you look down at the bottom of your Zoom screen, there is a “More” button and you should be able to either show subtitles or hide subtitles depending on your preference. For those of you on Zoom, the Q&A button also located at the bottom of your screen is what we will be using for you to submit questions to Jane.

So today if you’ve tuned into any of our other webinars, this is going to be a little bit different. Jane and I actually don’t have much, if any of a script, what we’re going to be doing is having a conversation based off of the questions that you all are asking as Jane does work, and we get to have the wonderful opportunity to follow along with her painting.

So just make sure that you’re using that Q&A feature as opposed to the chat. So the chat is what we’re going to be using for technical assistance. So if you have any issues with your sound or your video or things like that that’s where you can put your issues in there, we should be able to help you.

We are also streaming live to Facebook, so thank you, and hello to all of you tuning in via Facebook. If you’re watching on the Cornell Lab’s Facebook page, you are welcome to add your questions to the comments section. And I have a wonderful colleague, Chelsea, who is behind the scenes monitoring those comments, and she’s going to be relaying questions to me. I should say that we have a lot of people signed up and tuning into this webinar, so while we would love to answer every and all questions that are asked, we will be doing our best to make sure we’re answering the ones that are most relevant, or sort of the most commonly asked questions.

So I think that that covers all of the logistics, all of the important information. So let’s get started. So Jane, I’m like I said so happy to be here with you. Before you get started, do you want to tell us a little bit about who you are, or what your background is?

[Jane Kim] Sure. Well, my name is Jane Kim I am a visual artist and a scientific Illustrator. And I first came to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a Bartels Science Illustration intern. That was back in 2011, and I was there for about six months. But during that time, I had the great pleasure of being able to work with Dr. John Fitzpatrick who of course is the former director of the Lab of O, and we sort of started talking about this idea of creating a mural in the visitor center. He approached me with the dream that he had since the building was built and from there, we just continued that conversation. And in 2014, I had the great pleasure of painting the great Wall of Birds in the visitor center at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

So my understanding of birds was really thanks to the Cornell Lab of O, and the boot camp of a project this Wall of Birds was, in which I painted 243 families of birds to scale on 70 by 40 foot wall. So today I’m very excited to paint an American Avocet in celebration of migration. And this bird, of course, is a migrant and comes through to the United States to breed. So I will be painting it in its breeding plumage, however it will look very different if you have the pleasure seeing an American Avocet now and in the winter. But with further delay, I’m going to go ahead and start the video.

There it is so I have it all drawn out and transferred. In the interest of saving time, we recorded the drawing and the transferring of this drawing in advance that Lisa and the Lab will be happy to share if you’re interested in watching that process. So just a quick two time lapse videos for that. But before I get started Lisa, do you want to say anything else regarding the webinar? OK, cool.

So then before I get started, and maybe to answer some preliminary questions, I have transferred this drawing on to Stonehenge paper. It’s traditionally a printmaking paper but it’s also a fantastic drawing paper I’m a really big fan. It comes in a variety of colors. The brand Legion here actually makes notepads of Stonehenge paper in different colors, and the color that I have right now is called fawn. So that’s just to answer some questions.

Here’s a couple of material questions too, what did I use to transfer this drawing? And my favorite transfer paper is one that you can actually pick up at your local Michael’s or other craft stores. I have found that Craft Smart is my favorite graphite transfer paper. It doesn’t leave as much of a residue on the surface that you’re transferring, it also erases beautifully, and you can paint over these lines really well. So they come in different sizes in different sheet sizes. So that’s just a little background on that.

I will be using Pentel Aquash Water Brushes and I am going to be working with three different sizes here this is my fine tip. And this is my large tip. It does come in a medium tip and, I think it’s great but between the fine and this large, I feel like it covers everything. But they also came out with a filbert tip, which I am so happy about, I did not have this while I was painting the Wall of Birds. And these are in fact the same brushes that I used for the mural to create the details of the birds. So I’ll be using those today. I definitely need some sort of a rag to wipe the paint off the tips of my brushes. I also want a spray bottle. And that’s actually the reason why I love using water brushes is because it essentially eliminates the need for a container of water where I’m washing out my brushes as I go.

The handle of the brush holds the water, so you can just unscrew the top. And then I like to use this water spray bottle and I opened the nozzle, so it’s at full stream. And then, let’s see if I can do this– and then I just like to squirt the water into the container. And then it’s really handy when I’m on a mural or if I’m needing to paint quickly, if I’m in the field I can have a little spray bottle with me, and you don’t have to carry water around with you. So these are great.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane, we’re getting some questions about transferring. What is the benefit of transferring? Why do you do that within your process? How do you transfer? I know we talked about the video, which we’ll probably send around in our follow up email which will include a recording of this talk. That won’t be sent out until the end of migration celebration which will be next Friday. But could you talk a little bit about transferring?

[Jane Kim] Sure, yes. So transferring. I often do my bird my drawings not on the surface that I’m planning to paint. And so the transfer process allows me to really get the drawing exactly the way that I want it and then put it onto the surface in which the final rendering will take place. And I find that that makes it just cleaner for me and less lines or graphite that can smear or smudge. So I’m interested in just having a clean working surface.

So I use the transfer method on murals, I use it for my personal paintings, I use it for scientific illustrations. I rarely will draw directly on the surface that I’m working on. That’s mostly because I know I’m not going to get it perfectly the first time, so it allows me to play around with the drawing before I’m ready.

[Lisa Kopp] A science Illustrator has to make a couple of edits along the way.

[Jane Kim] Oh, absolutely, and I just want to mention that the time lapse of the drawing of the Avocet is over an old drawing of an Avocet that I did years ago before the Wall of Birds project, and before I feel like my eyes started to become keener and understanding anatomy of birds better after that project. I noticed that I saw some moments that I felt were not accurate, and redid it. So the drawing process, you’ll see I have a piece of tracing paper over an old drawing. Yeah.

[Lisa Kopp] That’s great.

[Jane Kim] OK, so are there any other questions before I move into–

[Lisa Kopp] Well, there are lot, but I think you should feel free to keep moving ahead and we’ll answer them as we can.

[Jane Kim] OK great, so for paints and for my palate, I tend to use water-based paints and acrylic acrylic paints. So I’m just going to go through the materials that I use for that. So this is my palette. It’s a form of a stay wet palette. There’s a lot of different shapes that these stay wet palettes come in. So this is probably one that a lot of people are familiar with. And then you open the lid, there’s a sponge in there, and then you put these stay wet palette papers over the wet sponge. So that is what I have done to this palette.

So underneath that is a sponge, and this one has a lot of paint stains on it from prior use, and this paper just lays right on top. And what I like about this palette versus the other stay wet palettes is that it has these great sort of dividers that I can put my paint in rather than putting the paints directly on the palette paper. So it just keeps my mixing surface cleaner for me. And I– we’ll go ahead and start putting some paints into my palette.

So. Then we look at– yeah.

[Lisa Kopp] And you can either answer it now or if there’s a better place as you’re moving forward that’s fine. We have some questions about what drew you to birds, and what sort of inspires you as you continue to do science illustration?

[Jane Kim] Gosh, what drew me to the birds?

I think because birds are all around us all the time. We can see them in urban settings, we see them in parks, we see them in more wild settings. You hear them, they’re really– for me just an essentially another resident in my daily life. And they come in so many different sizes, and shapes, and colors. To my eye, they are gems and jewels in the sky. So it has been a subject matter near and dear to my heart for a very long time. But the path of scientific illustration was really a result of wanting to understand my subject better, and really get to know it. And I felt like scientific illustration and communication was a really amazing way for me to ask myself questions about the bird, from the lens of knowing that I wanted my audience to also get to know the bird better.

And so drawing them accurately and understanding their– just as much as I can about their biology, I’m sorry about that was the most inspiring thing about art making, and being able to paint a bird accurately helps me personally connect with it better too. So those are the reasons why I love birds. And I love American Avocets, of course, we have them here in California, in northern California year round, parts of Southern California as well, but they do migrate.

And just this last year last April. I had the great pleasure of seeing probably the biggest sort of flock I had ever seen in Port Bolivar in Texas, and it was just so wild to see thousands of these birds stand together and just do their Avocet thing.


So we picked this bird and also because we have another fun workshop attached to the Avocet that will be upcoming. Lisa is it a right to talk about that now?

[Lisa Kopp] Yeah. Go for it, yep.

[Jane Kim] Awesome. So in October next month, we’re going to offer a paint along workshop of how to paint an American Avocet bird egg, but a 3D model of it. So that should be an Eventbright page that where you can buy tickets, and it comes with a really fantastic kit of wooden egg paints, and then you’ll be asked to buy brushes, and I recommend these here. And you can follow along with that. So we’re just excited to give the American Avocet that a lot of love from all angles today.

OK, so my favorite acrylic paints are Golden Fluid Acrylics. So they come in different consistencies, there’s a high flow which is even more watery and more like ink, and then there’s hard body, medium body. And I prefer this fluid acrylic because it allows me to use acrylics a little bit more like watercolor or in thin washes without having to water down the paint. And so it really has high pigment and coverage, which is the thing that I like. So I’m just putting in some titanium white and some titanium buff. And then I sort of move in a rainbow color spectrum in my palette.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane, I think we just lost the video on your drawing. There it is. You must have bumped it. There we go.

[Jane Kim] Right sorry about that.

[Lisa Kopp] It’s OK.

[Jane Kim] OK. So, Hansa yellow. I love this yellow. It’s just a real bright but not too, it doesn’t lean green, I feel like it’s a pretty nice neutral yellow. I love Indian yellow hue. It’s a transparent color great for layering.

This is pyrrole orange. I absolutely love this color, and I’ll talk a little bit more about it later. This color is called quinacridone magenta. And all the quinacridones are really wonderful. They come in variety of different shades. I’m almost out of this one.

[Lisa Kopp] We’re getting a lot of questions about the details of what colors you’re using and materials. So I just wanted– you can keep going Jane, I just want to mention to everybody that the goal for this was to be able to watch Jane, and we don’t have the ability to list off every material that she’s using. However, her workshop that she’s going to be doing in October does have materials, and supplies included in the kit that is a part of the ticket price and it will list off any additional supplies, which are just paint brushes that you would need to supply yourself.

So we– like I said I’m sorry we don’t have the ability to sort of rehash all of the different materials that she’s using but this is something that we definitely hope to do again with Jane. This is I think our second conversation in eight months and then we’re hosting the workshop with Jane where they’ll be two hours dedicated to this kind of information sharing with Jane. So thanks, everyone, for your patience as we get all of the supplies and materials ready.

And Jane while you’re doing that, we have a couple of questions from some young artists, that are mentioning information about what’s required to get into science illustration? What was your schooling or your background?

[Jane Kim] So I started looking into programs, and there are several if you do a quick Google search, but the one that I ended up kind gravitating towards was a science illustration program at California State University Monterey Bay, and it’s a year long program. I think the benefit of enrolling in a program is that it does teach you sort of basic mediums and skills and techniques. So it’s not just traditional media and ones that would typically be used in scientific illustration like pen and ink and stippling and watercolor wash acrylic. But also digital skills and so it sort of sets up the necessary skills and tools to become a freelance scientific Illustrator and so that’s one of the benefits of enrolling in a program in my opinion.

But if you aren’t going to do that, really it’s about a sharpening your observation skills, so I would very much recommend keeping a sketchbook doing some field sketching, looking at everything from the angle of what can I learn about this organism. And then reaching out to experts and scientists to just start having conversations with them, and seeing if they would be willing to look over your drawing to help you see the nature better. So those are just some of the things that people can start doing as they begin their journey into scientific illustration.

So I just want to make call out real quickly because this color is probably– I would argue maybe one of the most important colors in my palette. And it’s called Van Dyke brown, and I absolutely use it all the time and for so many different reasons. And of course I’ll be talking about how I mixed my colors and this one is very important one. And raw umber that’s going to be the final color that I put in my palette today. Well, I say that and then I might add something else later. So nothing is finite.


A lesson we I think all have come to embrace over the last couple of years.

[Lisa Kopp] Absolutely.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.


OK couple of other things that I love having around while I’m painting, especially birds, is my Sibley field guide I really do use this so much and there are amazing field guides out there a lot of them. But for me tried and true is the one by Sibley. OK is there anything else I should I just go ahead and get to it.

[Lisa Kopp] I say go for it.


I’m just going to pull up my references. Oh maybe that’s something to quickly mention is that when pulling references, don’t forget to watch videos of this bird too especially if you haven’t ever seen it in life. It is so important to observe their behavior– their natural behavior because photographs can sometimes take the animal a bit out of context, and you’re not necessarily aware of how the photo was taken, sometimes the bird might be afraid or alarmed in it. So I think that when you’re able to observe natural behavior, it really helps you understand. And then another thing that I like to do when looking at references, when you do a Google image search there’s just a page of thumbnails that kind of come up.

I like to just scan all of that and see if I can’t articulate patterns in the bird that come up over and over again, whether it’s like a stance, whether it’s the coloration. I think that that actually helps you understand a little bit it’s typical behavior or how it would naturally hold itself. Is the majority of pictures seem to have the Avocet wading, or its head against the surface of the water, because it does this back and forth feeding behavior. Sometimes I see it outside of the water but mostly I feel like it’s wading and it’s upright. So just kind of looking for common patterns in the pictures as well as is incredibly helpful.

And the other thing that as I get going I’ll start pointing out other characteristics that to me define and describe an American Avocet. So I’m just getting my photos references ready. Let’s see I’m going to get a–

[Lisa Kopp] Jane, we have a question or two about– related to reference images, which is do you ever paint using specimens? Or out in the field? And what are those– how did those vary compared to when you’re in the studio?

[Jane Kim] Yes absolutely. It’s an absolute treasure and a huge benefit when you can work with a skin. I have had such opportunities to have the skins right next to me as I’m painting, when I was creating the interior murals for the Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. And it really helps to be able to move feathers around on the bird and touch different aspects of it and see texture differences that you might not be able to see in a photograph.

But when you’re studying birds out in the field, look for those same markings. Look to see if you can notice length of feathers and how they lay on the bird in different parts of their anatomy, like around the eye, on their head, on their neck. So if you can even get yourself to a collection to observe specimens in a drawer, I think that in and of itself is incredibly useful as well.

[Lisa Kopp] Great, thank you.

[Jane Kim] Sure, nothing beats being able to see something in person.

OK, so I really love to start with the eye because, what I have learned in working with experts at the Lab of O is that the placement– eye placement is a place where often inaccuracies can happen. And it really is an anchor point and you can judge the placement and distances of other parts of its head, and anatomy around the eye. So I might not be painting everything in full detail and as you’ll see, I really like to kind of go from a general to specific.

And this technique that I’m going to be showing you today is different than what I did at the Wall of Birds and if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about that technique, we wrote a book called, The Wall of Birds, and you can get that and it goes through and chronicles the project and excerpts of natural history, and culture and also technique. “Assembly Line” is the chapter you’ll want to look at if you want to understand the process for the Wall of Birds. Which the goal for that was speed and efficiency and trying to paint as fast as I could. And so my team and I would block in the birds and these real– I guess general color fields that I could then put detail on top of and it just helped me move quicker than what this process is today.

So I just dipped my brush into Van Dyke brown, and grabbed a little bit of ultramarine blue, to make a blackish tone. So I’m just going to show you that there. So that I love making blacks from that mixture of paint and I’m going to go ahead and I’m using the fine tip water brush.

And of course, when you’re looking at a bird eye, don’t forget to really observe the shape that the eye makes too because it’s not just a round circle, you’re only seeing a bit of actual eyeball. There’s a whole big eyeball that’s still inside the skull of the head, so you just want to make sure that you understand the part that you’re seeing that comes out. I’m just going to continue to give it a little shape there. They have these really sweet big eyes.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane we’re getting some really interesting questions about ethical use of reference images or sort of inspirational images. I don’t know if you can touch on that while you’re I want to I don’t want to waylay you from painting, but I think that that’s something that we’ve got a couple of questions about and it’s worth mentioning.

[Jane Kim] Oh 100%. Thank you so much for asking that question because it is so important to keep in mind, that unless you have the permission of the photographer to use a bird photo as is– if you’re compiling photos from an image search, that’s for you to create a whole unique bird from. You can’t copy exactly photos, there are copyright laws protecting photographers from that, and the way that I like to think about it is to take different parts of the photo. So sometimes, it’s like– I call it Frankenstein the bird, because you’re using the head from one picture, maybe the body from another, the feet of another, lighting from another. You just want to use different aspects from different photos so that you are working with a unique image at the end. It’s really important.

So I just put down a little, I just added a little bit of the white to this Van Dyke brown and ultramarine blue mix, to make a very pale sort of a gray so that I can just establish the eye ring. And I’m just putting this in quickly and loosely, and not worrying too much about the detail at this point. So I love pyrrole orange, I mentioned that I would talk about this with you, but pyrrole orange can do– it’s really versatile. So if you add a little bit of ultramarine blue to pyrrole orange, You get this really beautiful kind of purple, hue depending on how much blue you’re adding. Right and then you add a little white, you’ll really start to see that purple come together it’s a gorgeous– gorgeous color.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane we’re getting some comments, and I think maybe it’s because we have a notification at the top saying that we’re live on Facebook that they can’t actually see the eye, could you scoop the paper down just a tiny bit?

[Jane Kim] Oh, well, well the paper–

[Lisa Kopp] Or the camera could go up? Yeah. There we go, but we’ll see if that’s better for people. I can see it OK on my screen, but I’m not sure if it’s showing up differently if people are on iPads or iPhones or on different versions of Zoom. Thanks.

[Jane Kim] Sure. Is that looking– How is that for everybody? Looking good, looking good?

OK. I lost my train of thought. Back to pyrrole orange. So let’s see what else pyrrole orange can do, and if you mix that with a little bit of Van Dyke brown, you get a really beautiful, rich burnt tone.

If you want to have it be a little bit even more earthy, you can just do some pyrrole orange with some raw umber. And that gives you an even more, earthy brown. So I just find pyrrole orange to have so many options. And I mention that now because I’m going to be using that as a base to create the orange cinnamon color of its head.

Another striking feature about an Avocet of course is its prominent forehead and the swoop in the bill, and this can vary among Avocet to Avocet. So some won’t kind of kick up as high, some will, but really it’s that shape is unique to this bird. In fact its scientific name, Recurvirostra americana, it actually translates to “backward bill,” which is a fun. I love when names actually honor the feature of a bird, or the behavior of a bird. Like the Ferruginous Hawk, so it’s a great name.

OK. Let’s get some of that wonderful cinnamon color and I just added a little bit of white to the pyrrole orange and Van Dyke brown mix to get that kind of clay color. I’m going to add a little bit of this Indian yellow hue to maybe give it a bit more yellow tones to it.

And then I’m just going to quickly block in sort of the full color of cinnamon around. And they have a brighter front patch so I’m not going to go all the way to the bill, but I’m just going to quickly fill and bass tone, and we’ll work our way down.

I’m going to add a little more white to that. And add a little more warm. OK. And that’s just to start laying in blocks of color and we’ll come back in to blend that. But another anatomical sort of observation to look out for is where the end of the bill and the corner of the eye, that relationship, it gives you the next cue into sort of the correct placement of where this bill should come out of.

And different birds, the corner of their mouth will come sometimes just up to the corner of the eye, sometimes it’ll go pass the entire eye, so these are just moments to look for. On an Avocet, it really doesn’t come in very far, and it doesn’t– it does not meet the corner of the eye, there’s a little bit of distance between that, and I just want to make sure that I have that there.

And to me the Avocet has a few different kinds of blacks on it. It has the black on its wings and a tail, and in the bill. But to me the bill reads as a little bit of a warmer– a warmer black. So I’m going to add a little bit of ultramarine to this, but not as much as I did with the eye to make it black black, maybe I’ll add a little raw umber. Then I’m going to just go ahead and block in.

You guys should see this, I have like an obstacle course around me, I have my computer next to me and then the phone that’s recording above me.

OK I’m going to make the bottom of the bill just a little darker and then the top. And I want to absolutely remind anyone beginning that there is an ugly face to every painting you know it’s like just you got to push through that and it’s not going to look awesome in the first layers, and that’s totally OK. The ugly phase, the potato phase, I’ve heard lots of different ways that this initial painting phase goes.

OK, I’m going to go ahead and give it a little bit more of a divide between. All right.

So another thing that I encourage is not to be afraid to put down sort of dramatic moments of shadow and light as well. The wonderful thing about acrylic paint is you can paint right over it. So if you feel like you need to change your mind, you can do so in this medium and it’s really wonderful. So I like encouraging boldness in putting colors down.

So as you can see I have this line here and that for me is my shadow line, and I’m going to put a dramatic tone back there to start building the form of the head before I even move into any detail. And so let’s see I’ve got this Van Dyke brown, ultramarine, let’s add some at that pyrrole in there. OK a little more of that blue. OK, let’s just test this out, see how I like. More of that up here.

OK so I’m not going to be afraid to go ahead and just put this dark tone and really it’s about establishing simple shapes and then bringing it down to bring you the details out and against these strong simple ones.

OK, and then the light is coming from this direction. And so this part of the neck is catching light. So that was the Indian yellow hue white and pyrrole orange. OK. I’m going to switch brushes here, this is a bigger area. So I’m going to put my filbert wire brush to use. I’ve added some additional white as I move down the neck

OK. So once I’ve gotten sort of these base tones down, now I’m going to come back in with some detail. I mean I could– I would probably go ahead and do a block in for the entire bird but I want to make sure that we have some time to do some details before our hour’s up.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane, there are still some people who are having issues viewing the top of your bird, and if you’re going to be doing detail work up there, I wonder if there’s any way to shift the camera just a little bit more.

[Jane Kim] Oh yeah. So anybody getting seasick sorry.


[Lisa Kopp] There, try — I think that might work for people.

[Jane Kim] Is that?

[Lisa Kopp] It’s– we’ve got like half the audience saying they’re having no problems and some people saying they are. So thank you for trying to adjust it. I think that’ll work for now.

[Jane Kim] OK I apologize. OK, so you can see that the color that I’m choosing is what I would describe as the middle tone of the general color of that part of the bird. And this is so that I can either add darker tones to push it into shadow or I can put lighter tones on top to pull out various highlights.

So I’m going to go back to the eye, once again I like starting with the eye. And I’m just going to give the eye a little bit more volume because right now it’s just this that solid Van Dyke and ultramarine blue fill, and so I’m now putting go trying to get my full kind of palette in there for you. Here we go. I’m adding ultramarine blue and white and adding a little bit of that Van Dyke brown, but I’m going to put that tone on the top of the eye. And what I’m doing when my brush leaves the screen, by the way, is I am just cleaning off the tip of my water brush. If you squeeze the handle, water comes out of the bristles of the top and then you can just rub it on a cloth to swap colors it’s so convenient so fast and uses less water.

And so that’s a little bit wet still, so I’m actually going to use the tip of my brush without any paint to pull the pigment into the eye as more of a blend using just straight Van Dyke. And opaque matter makes for a nice dark tone. So just adding a little bit of that straight Van Dyke on the edges to round out my eye a little bit.

And then, of course we’re going to watch a little bit of a highlight and I so I will again use my ultramarine blue and white but make it really pale and just add a little dot to catch the light. And it has Avocets have a nice bright Irene. So using that same can I add just a little bit of raw number to kicked down the brightness a little bit but still keeping it pretty pale I’m going to now add hits into the eye ring to make that come out and stand out just a little bit. And not doing it evenly around just in specific moments around the eyering.

And now the direction of feathers around a bird’s head is really important. And one of the things that I love about the Sibley guides is in the front of all of his books he has wonderful diagrams to show you what kinds of feathers are around there. But in addition to that, knowing that there are groupings of feathers birds are incredibly organized and the feather tracks are very organized so once you know what groups are what, when you’re looking at a reference, then you have the ability to start looking for those details in the reference. But if you don’t understand where those feathers are, of course it’s impossible to know what to look for in a reference.

So I recommend studying the different groupings and then noticing the way that the direction of the feathers grow and the length of feather, it is in those particular areas because that changes from bird to bird. And Avocets really have sort of short feathers all densely packed short feathers all around its face, so I’m going to start, and why that’s important is that it helps me pick the brushstroke length for that part of the face.

So I’m going to start blending in that shadow and then pulling out some more highlights around its face now. So I’m picking up some umber– raw umber, some of the Van Dyke brown, some of that pyrrole orange, a little more of that Indian yellow hue, and I’m barely dipping the tip of my brush in those paints just adding a little bit at a time.

So there is always an eye line and the direction of feathers above the eye line kind of go in this direction. So I’m going to go ahead and just start to but in small brush strokes in the direction of feather growth start lending shadowing. And then as I work my way around, I’m going to go lighter and lighter.

So understanding how to achieve the right texture of the feather around a certain specific parts of the bird. That’s super helpful to make sure that you don’t make the mistake of making your birds look like they either have scales or have fur. It can be really easy to give the same treatment all around and all over the entire bird and that’s when it starts to not feel like feathers.

[Lisa Kopp] And Jane I just want to jump in really quickly and say that we’re only two minutes away from the hour, which is hard to believe. And it’s amazing to see how much life you’ve given this bird in that amount of time. I did want to mention that you had said if there was a little bit more that you could work on after the hour, you’d be willing for maybe five minutes or so. So if people can stick around, they’re welcome to.

[Jane Kim] Oh, for sure.

[Lisa Kopp] For those that do have to leave, I just wanted to mention quickly that I threw through some links in the chat, including information about Jane’s workshop, the book that Jane mentioned, The Wall of Birds book, a link to the Wall of Birds interactive where you can see the mural that Jane created for the Lab of Ornithology, and the full lineup of all of our migration celebration programming. We hope that you all can stick around for a couple more minutes to see Jane work some more.

[Jane Kim] So I’m just basically blending in the more general blocks of shapes to start giving it more form and more volume.

[Lisa Kopp] Jane we’re getting some questions about the future of this bird. Will you be finishing it? Will you be posting it anywhere? Someone boldly asked if there would be a drawing for them to win it potentially.


[Jane Kim] Oh my goodness you guys, I’m so glad somebody asked that. Because we are painting this Avocet today to continue our celebration with the egg painting workshop. So when you sign up for the egg painting workshop, this comes with this finished Avocet that will come as a print in the kit. So there is a way to see the finished bird. I’ll definitely post this on Instagram– on our Instagram feed.

[Lisa Kopp] I put in the chat a link to Jane’s Instagram. It’s her studio, Ink Dwell, it’s their Instagram account, so you can follow her there and get a sneak peek of what this looks like.

[Jane Kim] So I will just be working on this to today to finish, so hopefully I’ll be able to post something for you all to see the finished product in the next couple of days.

[Lisa Kopp] There are questions about saving the chat, and unfortunately for security purposes, we can’t have the chat shared or saved, so that’s one of the realities. But we will have this webinar recorded, and those of you who signed up via Zoom will get the recording in about a week and a half, and you’ll be able to hear all of the information that was talked about live.

[Jane Kim] And maybe I’ll– I could potentially create a time lapse of the rest of the painting of this.

[Lisa Kopp] Someone did request that Jane.

[Jane Kim] Oh good. Happy to.

[Lisa Kopp] It’s really incredible to see how in 40 minutes that went from– really, I mean I am no artist, I shouldn’t even say basic sketch, a beautiful sketch– but now this looks like a bird with life and personality. And it’s just amazing to have watched that come to life in such a short amount of time, and you make it look very easy even though it is not at all.

[Jane Kim] Well, you know I think it’s just it’s practice. Thank you, Lisa. I do think that it’s really a skill that a lot of people can learn how to do. And it is about pushing through some of those moments where you’re like, “Oh man is this even going in the right direction?” And you just have to kind of keep trusting your eye, and know that there is an awkward phase as you continue to build this bird, or any painting.

[Lisa Kopp] Well, Jane I want to be respectful of your time, so you tell us when you’re at a– I’m sure as an artist It’s hard to say when you’re satisfied at a certain point and I know you said that your day is going to be spent finishing this bird, but I want to make sure that we give you that time and space to work and that we let people get on with their day if they’re taking a lunch break right now. So you you decide when you want to stop now.

[Jane Kim] OK I will just put a few more little here, then we can stop. But I just wanted to put some really bold things down before we ended just to continue to encourage not being afraid to just put some paint down. Put it down, you can paint over it, you can add details and it’s really for me about building the big or the broad areas to the details, and I will just continue to layer details over this big block of paint. That I showed you today. So if there’s any other questions now I think this would be a good point to switch it over to a time lapse that we’ll share with you all later.

[Lisa Kopp] Perfect. Well, thank you so much for this Jane. Like we mentioned this is not the end of your time with Jane, we’d love to have you joined for her workshop. I should mention there’s only 100 tickets available for that workshop. So it’s pretty limited. And as always, Jane it’s so lovely talking with you and getting to watch you work. I feel like it was like a little meditative actually just being able to observe. And thank you all for the really wonderful questions and comments, and we hope to see you at some programs over the next few days too.

[Jane Kim] Me too. Looking forward to seeing you all again. Thank you.

[Lisa Kopp] Great. Thanks, everyone. Have a great day.

[Jane Kim] Bye.

[Lisa Kopp] Bye.

End of transcript

Join us for a virtual visit to the studio of Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell and the artist behind the world-famous Wall of Birds mural at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Spend an hour with Jane as she walks us through the process of painting an American Avocet, a medium-distance migratory shorebird. This free webinar features audience Q&A. Come with your questions about science illustration and ornithological artwork.

This event is part of our virtual Migration Celebration. Visit the Migration Celebration webpage for the full schedule of events, migration resources, and family-friendly activities.

Explore more of Jane’s work